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VOL. 40 | NO. 9 | Friday, February 26, 2016

Board of Education to formalize teacher discipline policy

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NASHVILLE (AP) - In an effort to prevent inconsistent punishments, Tennessee Board of Education members are seeking to formalize a teacher disciplinary policy.

The board affirmed support last week for punishment guidelines after a recent investigation by the USA Today Network and The Tennessean showed flaws in the teacher background check system, the newspaper reported (http://tnne.ws/24rIUw1).

Staff attorney Philip Cramer said he will help develop new recommendations that future board members can use when deciding how to punish teachers found guilty of wrongdoing. The board's executive staff hopes to present a draft for first reading in April.

Board member Wendy Tucker said she hopes the formal document will help create clear guidelines and tougher punishments than have been set in the past.

Without a set policy, board members said, they have been hamstrung by the standards set by previous boards.

In the case of James Aar on Swafford, the Tennessee board decided not to reinstate his license after North Carolina officials revoked it because of love letters to a 16-year-old student. Swafford's attorney, however, was able to get the decision overturned when he demonstrated that there have been 20 others instances in which the board had allowed teachers in similar scenarios to be either reinstated or apply for reinstatement.

"This is developing a new precedent with a matrix that says 'This is what it means to be a professional educator in Tennessee,'" Tucker said.

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